Isobel Lewis is a freelance writer, specialising in pop culture and lifestyle for publications including The Atlantic, i-D and HELLO!. You can find her tweeting
I am a sweaty person. A clammy face, clammy hands person. A roll on AND spray deodorant person (who somehow still finds herself fanning her armpits throughout the day).
Being a sweaty person is a pretty fruitless experience. Besides men recoiling in horror when they try and touch your arms to “get past you” in a bar, there really aren’t many perks.
I was constantly embarrassed about my sweatiness, in particular my face. Now I know dewy skin is ‘in’ right now, but my face is far more ‘shining moon emoji’ than ‘’. Desperate to dampen the sheen, I would wear layers of coverage, powders and setting sprays, endlessly topping up throughout the day as my pores gobbled up the product and the shine kept coming.
I wore full coverage foundation every day, whether on the beach or popping to the shops. The sticky club nights that came when I turned 18 were the worst of it though, when the surrounding mess of bodies left me uncomfortably sweaty and unable to wipe, or even dab at, my face for fear of shifting the layers I’d carefully built.
Then one day, in my first year of university, I just… stopped. I was sat on the single bed in my tiny halls room, getting ready for a night out in the unbearable heat (thanks to a radiator which would turn on at random moments) and decided against wearing foundation. I wasn’t thinking that I would never wear it again, just that I didn’t want to now.
The liberation I found that night is something I can’t really explain. Foundation is a foundation, the base of our entire beauty routine and the maker of flawless faces. With only concealer under my eyes and covering a particularly nasty chin spot, I felt self-conscious, but completely lost that once I was dancing.
Realising that I had nothing to maintain or upkeep, no base products to prevent moving around, I truly let go and felt comfortable in myself. I was hot and sticky and wiped my face on the sleeve of my jumper, realising that nothing would happen if I did. When the careful constructed zit camouflage was wiped off, I didn’t care.
It would be stupid not to acknowledge my privilege in this story: what I make up for in large pores and shine, I now lack in acne and scarring. Of course, there are days when hormonal spots overtake my chin (and life), but I usually don’t bother concealing them. Maybe it was the years of teenage acne spent smothering my skin in cheap, heavy foundation, but I’m just over it. A touch of on the nose and a dusting of powder on the T-zone and I am done for the day, with the products staying at home.
I haven’t looked back since that university night out. I love a bold lip and a neon eyeshadow (preferably in a colour my mum would’ve rolled her eyes at when I was a teenager), but I haven’t worn foundation since that day: not for my university balls, Christmas or graduation. When I look at those photos there I am: face a little shiny, but happy and comfortable at last.